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Lasse Viren

Finland won 24 gold medals in athletics between 1912 and 1936 when the country produced super stars of the track like Hannes Kolehmainen, Paavo Nurmi and Ville Ritola. From 1948 to 1968 there was a medal drought with the country winning just two, both bronze.
Then suddenly in the 70's the Finns were back among the gold and their champion this time was an arctic circle policeman named Lasse Viren.
At the 1972 Munich Olympics, during the 10,000 m final, Viren bumped into an American athlete and stumbled. He fell on the track, dragging down a Tunisian, Mohammed Gammoudi with him. While Gammoudi lay there stunned, Viren leapt to his feet and got back into the race. By the half-way mark he had caught up with the front runners and stayed with them till there were just about 600 metres to go. Then he surged into the lead and powered down the track to take the gold in world record time. It was Finland's first track gold in 36 years. Viren also won the 5000 metres.
At Montreal in 1976, he repeated the long-distance double, taking gold in both the 5000 m and the 10,000 m. It was an extraordinary feat. No one had ever won both titles in two successive Olympics!


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